Staunton, Feb. 6 – Many Russians are nostalgic for Soviet times because they mistakenly believe that there was little or no crime in their country before 1991 and that the transitions arising from perestroika and the creation of a market economy are to blame for its appearance, Marina Shapovalova says.
But that view is doubly mistaken, the Moscow commentator says. On the one hand, since all private economic activity was illegal in Soviet times, there was a great deal of crime. And on the other, the means those involved in much of this activity then to enforce their will presaged what happened after 1991 (newizv.ru/news/2023-02-06/prestupnost-kak-sistema-kriminal-v-rossii-eto-pryamoe-nasledie-sovetskoy-vlasti-396257).
That is, because all private economic activity was illegal, those engaged in seeking to extract money from it used extra-legal and often violent means to do so,exactly what they and their successors did after the end of the Soviet system. The big difference is that the Soviet media seldom covered these crimes, while the Russian media played them up.
But there was one change that does matter and explains why Russians talk so much about crime in “the wild 90s.” Then crime directly touched many small operators, but subsequently, it focused on bigger fish, leaving the more numerous smaller ones to their own devices and contributing to the idea that the Putin regime had reduced crime.
In fact, it only shifted crime to “more respectable” levels and also like the Soviet rulers increasingly suppressed coverage of what is going on except when it can play a role in solving political struggles, again just as was often the case in Soviet times – and yet another form of the continuity of crime from Soviet times to Russian ones.